In Search of a Prince (Book Review)

  • Author: Toni Shiloh
  • Publisher: Bethany House (Baker Book House)
  • On-Sale Now
  • Synopsis: Born and raised in New York, twenty-five year-old Brielle Bayo learns that her deceased father was the prince of Oloro Ilé. Brielle visits her father’s country as she seeks the Lord’s will for her future.
  • Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the novel from the publisher, in conjunction with JustReads tours. Opinions expressed are my own.

I came across In Search of a Prince a couple months ago, while perusing upcoming book tours– and I immediately wanted to read it. The cover is incredible (featuring a beautiful princess in an elegant gown) and I was delighted to see a new #OwnVoices Christian fiction title. We need so much more #OwnVoices cultural representation in Christian fiction!

Having read the book, I will say that, in some ways, it was EVEN BETTER than expected. But I do want to put a word up-front that this is definitely a “Reader Discretion” title– which I’ll explain in the Romantic Content section.

Scripture Connection

But I am trusting You, O LORD,

saying “You are my God!”

My future is in Your hands.

Psalm 31: 14-15a

Spiritual Content

Wow! The Lord definitely used this book to minister to me. I remember feeling His presence when the characters started praying. It was one of those times where I could pray right along with the characters, and I feel so blessed when the Lord uses a book for me in that way.

The theme, throughout, is trust, a topic which the Lord has recently put on my heart. In the midst of unexpected events and responsibilities, Brielle turns to the Lord and trusts Him to not only give her discernment, but also walk her through each and every unforeseen event and uncertain outcome.

I am deeply appreciative that Shiloh wrote a character who is so clearly walking with God. Brielle truly turns to Him at every corner, making her a relatable character– and making this a book that I think truly falls into the category of Christian fiction. It’s so refrshing to watch a main character walking with God every step of the way– not just praying on occasion or attending a church service.

Without going into the details too much (I don’t want to spoil anything), I’ll add that we also get to see Brielle receiving some direct communication from God. That’s not something I see a lot of, in the contemporary subgenre of Christian fiction, so that makes me really happy, too!

What I Liked

Although I won’t recommend this novel unreservedly, there is SO MUCH that I liked about it!

  • I so enjoyed and appreciated the friendship between Brielle and Iris. The two young women are more like sisters than best friends– sharing their time, passions, dreams and walks with the Lord. They genuinely love and support one another and there’s not a hint of jealousy between them! It is so beautiful to not only get to read about this sweet relationship, but also get to step into it, in some sense, through reading. One of my favorite authors, Robin Jones Gunn, describes her characters as friends. And I really feel that I got to “befriend” Iris and Brielle.
  • The characters are three-dimensional and nuanced. In addition to Brielle and Iris, we also spend a bit of time with baba agba (Grandfather), Marie (Bri’s mother), Dayo and Tomori.
  • The dialogue works so well in the story! Upon reflection, I think that the friendship/characters/dialogue function as a written “triple threat,” building on one another and working together to make the writing really strong and believable.
  • The storyline was so much fun! I will admit to noticing multiple strong similarities to the Princess Diaries movies, but it was really neat to see how the plot differed, as a Christian novel. Whereas selflessness and courage are themes in both stories, Brielle clearly finds her strength in the Lord.

Romantic Content

Even in terms of romantic content, there was a lot I really liked. For one thing, both Brielle and her love interest keep God at the center of their lives. It is evident that their relationships with God are the most important to them, while the romantic relationship is significant but clearly secondary.

There’s also some good discussion about love versus attraction and how love manifests itself in decisions and actions. We get to watch the relationship progress as the characters get to know each other and interact on a deeper level.

With that said…

SPOILER BELOW

Due to Brielle’s royal status, she must find a husband and marry within a certain amount of time. As well as navigating this forced commitment, from an emotional standpoint, Brielle must also come to terms with how the marriage will play out, in terms of physicality, as she is warned that she and her husband will be expected to immediately share a bedroom.

In fairness to the author, this subplot did not feel extraneous. (There are some instances I’ve experienced that feel like the authors are forcibly inserting scenes just to build romantic tension). Given the premise of the novel and Brielle’s characterization, it makes more sense that she would feel some concern over this, as opposed to simply shrugging it off. And, Shiloh does do a great job of portraying Brielle’s innocence/naivety. She’s not clamoring for the physicality expressed in marriage (and it wouldn’t be wrong if it were– that’s absolutely a blessing of marriage– but makes for a grosser read). Instead, Shiloh uses the topic of sexuality in conjunction with the development of a committed relationship. Ultimately, we see a bit of passionate kissing and, following an emotional exchange, Brielle tells her husband to “make me your wife.” There’s maybe one sentence after that, not particularly graphic but pretty easy to decode with the preceding context. Then, most of the discussion of intimacy drops off, with the exception of a teasing remark from Iris.

Again, I think that this content makes sense in the story and I think it was handled pretty well. It was, however, a bit much for me to sit in the character’s head, in the process.

Additional Content

This is also going to contain a bit of a spoiler…

There are a few references to unexpected paternity. The most significant of these cases is Brielle, herself, as she learns a huge secret about her father’s identity.

As I have referenced, before, I would really like to see more literature that explores the effect of finding out about one’s own unexpected paternity. So often, books and movies focus, instead, on how these discoveries affect family members (such as siblings discovering that their father had another child), which result in compassion on the family members, but not the “new” sibling, who is alone in the discovery.

Through Brielle, Shiloh examines what it’s like to discover that your father is a very different man than you thought he was. Brielle also must process that her mother has been lying to her for over 20 years. So, although Brielle does not discover that she had a different father, she does have the experience of realizing that her other parent was lying. And Shiloh definitely examines this in a compassionate way.

Another character suffers because his father assumes that the child does not belong to him. From this angle, we witness the effects of infidelity (or supposed infidelity) on the innocent child.

One other character, we learn, was the product of an affair. This is an unsympathetic character and, while I don’t condone or excuse this person’s actions, I would have liked more of an acknowledgement of how they suffered simply due to parentage that they didn’t choose. I say this, not due to the context of the story so much as because of the portrayal of this kind of situation, in general, by the media.

Recommendation Status

Although the romantic content was a bit much for me, I would still recommend this book, with reader discretion. Overall, the novel exceeded my expectations and was such a delight to read!

Published by Stephanie Agnes-Crockett

Hi, there! My name is Stephanie and I’m a Fresno, CA native. After studying at Biola University, I received my MLIS (Masters in Library Science) from San Jose State University. I live with my mom, poet Kimberly Vargas Agnese, and serve as her unofficial agent. We reside at MeadowArc, a food forest in its infancy. I am called to, and passionate about, purity. In fact, the name Agnes means “pure.” Before I was born, my mom felt led to include the name Agnes in her name, and in the names of her children. My full, hyphenated name includes 26 letters (but not the whole alphabet).

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